Category Archives: Sex And Aging

Low sexual desire, related distress not uncommon in older women

By Kathryn Doyle

senior intimacy

Just because social attitudes toward sex at older ages are more positive than in the past doesn’t mean all older women have positive feelings about sex, according to a new Australian study.

Researchers found that nearly 90 percent of women over 70 in the study had low sexual desire and a much smaller proportion were distressed about it. The combination of low desire and related distress is known as hypoactive sexual desire dysfunction (HSDD) and nearly 14 percent of women had it.

Older people are increasingly remaining sexually active and sexual wellbeing is important to them, said senior author Susan R. Davis of Monash University in Melbourne.

“This is probably because people for this age are healthier now than people of this age in past decades,” Davis told Reuters Health by email.

A random national sample of women ages 65 to 79 was contacted by phone and invited to take part in a women’s health study. Those who agreed received questionnaires asking about demographic data, partner status and health history, including menopausal symptoms, vaginal dryness, pelvic floor dysfunction, depression symptoms, sexual activity and sexual distress.

Of the 1,548 women who completed and returned the questionnaires, about half were married or partnered, 43 percent had pelvic surgery and 26 percent had cancer of some kind. About a third had menopausal symptoms and one in five had vaginal dryness during intercourse.

In the entire sample, 88 percent reported having low sexual desire, 15.5 percent had sex-related personal distress, and women with both, who qualified for HSDD, made up 13.6 percent of the group, as reported in Menopause.

That’s lower than has been reported for this age group in the past, and similar to how many women report HSDD at midlife, Davis noted.

“Considering how conservative women of this age are, we were surprised that over 85 percent of the women completed all the questions on desire and sexual distress so we could actually assess this on most of the study participants,” Davis said.

Vaginal dryness, pelvic floor dysfunction, moderate to severe depressive symptoms and having a partner were all associated with a higher likelihood of HSDD. Sexually active women, partnered or not, more often had HSDD than others.

“We would never label women with low/diminished sex drive as having HSDD,” Davis said. “In our study 88 percent had low desire and only 13.6 percent had HSDD, this is because low desire is not an issue if you are not bothered by it.”

Vaginal dryness, associated with HSDD in this study, can easily treated by low dose vaginal estrogen which is effective and safe, she said.

HSDD was also associated with urinary incontinence, depressive symptoms and hot flashes and sweats, she said.

“Even talking about the problem with a health care professional who is interested and sympathetic is a good start,” Davis said. “Conversely health care professionals need to realize that many older women remain sexually active and do care about this issue.”

Complete Article HERE!

New resource to inform staff and aged care residents’ families on sexuality

By

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Sex remains important for many people living in aged care, but a challenge for staff and residents’ family members, writes Michael Bauer, who introduces a new guide to assist.

Sexuality is linked to wellbeing and quality of life and the need for affection, looking and feeling attractive, as well as intimacy, and sex can remain important for many people living in aged care facilities.

Growing old is not a limitation on the expression of sexuality or sexual desire and the above needs do not necessarily change because someone has dementia.

Residents’ sexuality can nevertheless often be a challenge for aged care facilities and staff as well as residents’ family members who may find it an awkward and difficult topic to openly discuss.

It can come as a surprise to some family and staff members alike, to learn that a resident still has sexual needs and this can evoke a range of responses from acceptance through to disbelief, or even disgust.

Children can find it difficult to understand and accept that their parent living in an aged care facility still has sexual desires and furthermore wants to fulfil them, particularly if they have dementia.

It can be equally upsetting for families and partners to learn that their loved one wants to spend time with someone else living in the facility. Families may struggle to understand and make sense of what is happening and why, particularly if the person is unable to verbally express their needs.

Sometimes behaviour may seem very out of character for the person. There may be a changed interest in sex, or a change in sexual inhibitions, all of which can cause concern or embarrassment for the family or partner.

To help the families of people living in residential aged care be more informed about sexuality, researchers from the Australian Centre for Evidence Based Aged Care at La Trobe University have developed the resource Sexuality and people in residential aged care facilities: A guide for partners and families.

The guide has undergone extensive consumer consultation and aims to assist family members and partners of people living in aged care facilities understand about sexuality, including for people living with dementia.

Issues covered include:

  • the importance of sexuality in old age
  • sexuality and living in an aged care facility
  • sexuality and dementia
  • sexual behaviours and their impact
  • how a facility can be supportive of the expression of sexuality

The guide can also be a useful resource for facility staff who need information on this topic. Initially developed in English this resource is soon to be translated into other languages.

A copy will soon be sent to all Australian residential care facilities, and it can be downloaded for free from the DementiaKT hub or here.

Funding for the project was obtained from the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres (DCRC) 3 – Carers and Consumers as part of the Australian Government’s Dementia Initiative.

Complete Article HERE!

Why Sex Is Better At 57 Than 27

Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Dame Helen Mirren approves of her wax replica.

Dame Helen Mirren approves of her wax replica.

Despite the fondness certain corners of the internet and cable television have for mocking sexually vital women of a certain age, new research suggests that those who embrace their sexuality may be laughing all the way to longer, healthier lives—though older men aren’t as lucky.

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A study out of Michigan State University (MSU) published this month in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior has found that frequent sex (defined as once or more per week) for women age 57 and older—especially if it’s “extremely pleasurable or satisfying”—resulted in a lower risk of hypertension and protected against cardiovascular disease.

Unfortunately for men, frequent sex in the 57 and older range is actually dangerous, increasing their risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and stroke. The risk is compounded by the use of medications such as Cialis and Viagra.

The study—an analysis of survey data of 2,204 people collected by the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project in 2005-6 and again five years later—isn’t just good news for older women, and should offer hope for younger women as they look to the future of their own sexuality.

Dr. Nancy Sutton Pierce, a nurse and clinical sexologist, suggests the best thing a young woman can do for her continued sexual health is to cultivate an attitude of optimism about it as she ages. “Younger women think sexy has an expiration date. Older women know it doesn’t,” she says.

The study is a stride toward busting the cultural myths that older women are supposedly non-sexual beings, which Sutton Pierce says “absolutely does them a disservice.” Sutton Pierce, who is almost 60, happily defies sexual stereotypes of older women. Married for thirty years to the same man, she says, “My sex life is better than ever, much better than my twenties.” In her work she says she sees women after forty “blossoming,” adding, “As women mature, we mature on all levels, which means we start to own our sexuality and sexual power. We don’t need someone else to tell us we’re hot, we can feel it.”

Study author Hiu Liu, an associate professor of sociology at MSU, also finds that for women, quality of sexual experience is a key contributing factor to the health benefits, not just quantity. “As a sociologist, I don’t see sex as just a physical exercise, as medical doctors do. It’s a social behavior, and has emotional meaning,” she says.

001For older women experiencing other kinds of physical declines related to illness, staying sexually active may bring other benefits. Irwin H., who asked to remain anonymous, of San Francisco found that for his 70-year-old wife, who has multiple sclerosis, increasingly limited mobility, and walks with a cane, “Sex gives her back her former sense of her physical self.” He even waxes a little poetic: “Sexuality for her is like an unexpected warm day in the middle of winter. It doesn’t end winter, but it makes it bearable.”

Some older women may believe they’ve lost their sexual selves when they experience the often dramatic physical changes at and after menopause, such as vaginal dryness and reduced libido. They need not despair, says Celeste Holbrook, PhD, a sexual health consultant and sexologist. “Sex, and fulfilling sex doesn’t always have to be centered on the goal of an orgasm, or penetrative sex,” she adds.

004However, Liu points out that the female sexual hormone released during orgasm, oxytocin, “may also promote women’s health” by reducing cortisol and increasing estrogen.

Holbrook urges communication between partners rather than silent acceptance. “Redefining your sexuality as we age for anybody is really good. Talk to your partner about your body changes and how you can create a fulfilling sex life while embracing those changes.”

Men shouldn’t worry too much, however. Though the MSU study seems to be the research equivalent of a cold shower for older men, Liu reminds them, “Moderate sex is good for older men, too.”

Complete Article HERE!

Is sex in later years good for your health?

Close Up Of Senior Couple Holding Hands On Beach

By Hui LiuAndy Henion

Having sex frequently – and enjoying it – puts older men at higher risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. For older women, however, good sex may actually lower the risk of hypertension.

That’s according to the first large-scale study of how sex affects heart health in later life. The federally funded research, led by a Michigan State University scholar, is published online in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

“These findings challenge the widely held assumption that sex brings uniform health benefits to everyone,” said Hui Liu, an MSU associate professor of sociology whose vast research on the link between health and relationships has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, NPR, Time and many other national and international news outlets.

For the current study, Liu and colleagues analyzed survey data from 2,204 people in the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. Participants were aged 57-85 when the first wave of data was collected in 2005-06; another round of data was collected five years later. Cardiovascular risk was measured as hypertension, rapid heart rate, elevated C-reactive protein and general cardiovascular events: heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

Older men who had sex once a week or more were much more likely to experience cardiovascular events five years later than men who were sexually inactive, the study found. This risk was not found among older women.

“Strikingly, we find that having sex once a week or more puts older men at a risk for experiencing cardiovascular events that is almost two times greater than older men who are sexually inactive,” said Liu. “Moreover, older men who found sex with their partner extremely pleasurable or satisfying had higher risk of cardiovascular events than men who did not feel so.”

She said the findings suggest the strain and demands from a sexual relationship may be more relevant for men as they get older, become increasingly frail and suffer more sexual problems.

“Because older men have more difficulties reaching orgasm for medical or emotional reasons than do their younger counterparts, they may exert themselves to a greater degree of exhaustion and create more stress on their cardiovascular system in order to achieve climax.”

Testosterone levels and the use of medication to improve sexual function may also play a role. “Although scientific evidence is still rare,” Liu said, “it is likely that such sexual medication or supplements have negative effects on older men’s cardiovascular health.”

Ultimately, while moderate amounts of sex may promote health among older men, having sex too frequently or too enjoyably may be a risk factor for cardiovascular problems, Liu said. “Physicians should talk to older male patients about potential risks of high levels of sexual activity and perhaps screen those who frequently have sex for cardiovascular issues.”

For women, it was a different story. Female participants who found sex to be extremely pleasurable or satisfying had lower risk of hypertension five years later than female participants who did not feel so.

“For women, we have good news: Good sexual quality may protect older women from cardiovascular risk in later life,” Liu said.

Previous studies suggest that strong, deep and close relationship is an important source of social and emotional support, which may reduce stress and promote psychological well-being and, in turn, cardiovascular health.

“This may be more relevant to women than to men,” Liu said, “because men in all relationships, regardless of quality, are more likely to receive support from their partner than are women. However, only women in good quality relationships may acquire such benefits from their partner.”

Moreover, the female sexual hormone released during orgasm may also promote women’s health, she said.

Liu’s co-authors are Linda Waite, professor at the University of Chicago, Shannon Shen, an MSU graduate student, and Donna Wang, professor of medicine at MSU.

The research was partially funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which are all part of the National Institutes of Health.

Complete Article HERE!

Study shows impaired sexual health and function common after heart attacks

New research from the University of Chicago investigates what happens to men’s and women’s sexual function and relationships after a heart attack in an effort to help clinicians develop better care guidelines for patients. The study, published in JAMA Cardiology, shows impaired sexual function or new problems are common after heart attacks. They occur at the same rate as a loss of general physical function and at a higher rate than the incidence of depression after heart attack, but rarely do health care providers address these issues – particularly with women.

heart attack

“Too often physicians and researchers are too embarrassed to ask questions about sexual health, and yet these issues are important to many people,” said Harlan Krumholz, MD, professor of medicine at Yale and director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, one of the authors in charge of the study. “We need to concern ourselves with gaining knowledge about how to help our patients achieve a high quality of life in all aspects of their lives.”

The data show that if a physician talks to the patient about sexual health and function after a heart attack the patient is more likely to resume sex. However, women were less likely to be counseled by physicians on what to expect and more likely to have problems with sexual function as they recover. More than half of women (59%) and less than half (46%) of men reported sexual function problems in the year after a heart attack.

“The next step is to design the optimal intervention to improve sexual function outcomes after heart attack for men and women,” said Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, associate professor of obstetrics/gynecology and medicine-geriatrics at the University of Chicago, who authored the research. “The rehabilitation phase begins with the cardiologist counseling the patient about her or his functional capabilities and what she or he can expect, including physical, psychological, and sexual function.”

Complete Article HERE!